As we hit the last few days of the session we need to look back at the beginning to see what went wrong. Understand when I say wrong, I am referring to a session that saw nothing but crazy politics. From the very beginning, the session got off to a slow start when Rep. T.W. Shannon stepped down as Speaker of the House to pursue the open U.S. Senate seat.
With the dominos that fell, it threw the House into turmoil. Leaders of committees fell and were replaced by loyal members to the new speaker, Rep. Jeff Hickman. Bill authors were changed and new committee assignments were handed out. This is usually done prior to session, but the new speaker had no other options.
We saw a session where tax increases to landowners and the oil and gas industry were on the table, and the push back that was created caused the butterfly effect to reign. We saw a session where 30,000 teachers descended upon the Capitol to ask for more money, yet Common Core and reading scores fell as the politics of the day ruled. We saw a session that told us it was ok to say “Merry Christmas” but not ok to talk about water and how we use it.
We saw a session that had coon hunters attempting to take away property rights that you have fought so hard to maintain. We also saw a session where your Oklahoma Farm Bureau was able to put a stop to the elimination of the home office tax credit that would have cost your counties a million dollar tax increase.
As historians look back on 2014, I am sure they will talk about the session that was not. The session that saw the largest majority of republicans ever seen at the Capitol, yet they could not decide what to do with many important issues. I hope as we go though the election process, we elect men and women who look down the road to major issues that face Oklahoma. Issues like making sure our kids rank at the top in education or making sure we have a competitive environment for our farmers and ranchers to thrive.
I also sincerely hope we will address the most pressing issue of the future – water. We can no longer afford to waste such a valuable commodity. It will take years of leadership and commitment but I know we will have leaders in the future who will face this issue head on. As we move into next year’s session, I hope we can hit the reset button and work on issues that truly make a difference in Oklahoma.